Recently released by Sport England, the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign has followed a string of new adverts to encourage women to take up exercise without feeling self-conscious, but does the advert just change our perception of what is sexy? It is a worrying statistic that there are 2 million fewer women than men that exercise regularly. The new advert sees women of all ages and body types doing different forms of exercise, working up a sweat and enjoying the sport rather than merely participating to lose weight. It makes a change from the usual conventions of beauty as a slim tanned and delicate woman. The advert challenges stereotypical body images that were brought about with the popularisation of ‘Thinspiration’ among young women online, who posted images of women who inspired them to lose unhealthy amounts of weight.
But does this really encourage the typical woman to go for a run, take up swimming or join a team? Many think not, myself included; as a person who doesn’t really take up many sports, I do not feel any less self-conscious. Some reports have even suggested that the advert is objectifying by changing what is perceived as ‘sexy’ and what is desirable and undesirable, focusing what seems like a large part of the advert on particular body features. We can’t use definitions of sexiness to encourage exercise when there are plenty of reasons to keep fit. It does not involve a stretch of the imagination to think about how women’s self-reference to “sweating like a pig” through exercise can shift into degrading terms like “fat pig”. Moreover, why must this campaign refer to females as ‘girls’? There is already the stigma of ‘throwing like a girl’ or ‘fighting like a girl’ and the infantilisation of women’s bodies just seems to continue before the advert has even begun. The campaign also ignores older women even though only 22% of women between 55 and 64 participate in sport at least once a week.
Although there needs to be campaigns for women to get more involved in exercise and to some extent the campaign could help women feel more comfortable about their bodies, I do not believe this advert is the way that it can be achieved. Positives such as reducing stress, forming friendships and giving both emotional and physical strength should be attributed to exercise, not just to focus on body images.
Sources: Sport England, Youtube